This letter was written by 35 year-old Corp. James B. Heaslet [or Hazlett] (1827-1912) of Company F, 139th Pennsylvania Infantry. He was wounded at Petersburg, Virginia on 18 June 1864 and subsequently transferred to Company D of the 6th Veteran Reserve Corps. James was the son of Archibald Hazlett (1789-1843) and Isabella Blair (1789-1830) of Perryville, Pennsylvania. He served in the 139th Pennsylvania with his nephew, Robert Guyton (1838-1915).
James wrote the letter to his niece, Isabella Guyton (1841-1868) — the daughter of John Guyton (1810-1886) and Elizabeth Jane Hazlett (1812-1890) of Perryville, Pennsylvania. It does not appear that Isabella ever married. She died at age 27 and is buried in the Hiland Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Perrysville.
James wrote the letter just two weeks after the 139th Pennsylvania was reviewed by President Lincoln following the Battle of Antietam. The regiment was in camp near Clear Spring, Maryland.
Addressed to Miss Isabella Guyton, Perryville, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
Camp Near Clear Spring
October 17th, 1862
I take up my pencil in hand to answer your kind letter which I received yesterday and if you knew the pleasure that it gave me you would write often. I received another from [my brother] Robert’s Isabella, and one from Annabell and one from [my brother] Archibald but I must say that one that I got from you gave me more real pleasure than any of the rest. There seemed to me to be more Union spunk in it than any I have got from any friend outside of my family yet, and I hasten to put in a few words in this to send through the kindness of your brother and my friend at home and in the tented field.
We was introduced to our chaplain on last Sabbath who is the Rev. Robt. McPherson. ¹ He is a Presbyterian Minister and I have a very great notion of him as a chaplain. We listened to a very appropriate sermon from [him] and all seemed to be pleased with him.
You spoke of so many having D C [Disability Certificate] marked to their names and you say that you would rather be an old maid than have a coward for a man. I glory in your spunk. Stick to that. There will be enough of young men that will go home from the war safe and sound for all you patriotic young ladies so you need not be an old maid no more at present.
But [I] remain your true and faithful Uncle, — James B. Haslet
N. B. Write soon and tell me all about the people. Excuse bad writing.
¹ Rev. Robert McPherson (1818-1893) was an 1843 graduate of Dickinson College and an 1846 graduate of the Western Theological Seminary. He served a variety of Presbyterian churches in Ohio and Pennsylvania before becoming a chaplain for the 139th Pennsylvania. He died in a railroad car of a sudden illness between Tyrone and Altoona in 1893.